Traveling and surfing go hand in hand, and as surfers, we often wind through coasts with our best boards in tow. But traveling via airline with surfboards can be a costly, burdensome, mentally and physically straining experience, especially for the inexperienced surfer not privy to strict airline surfboard policies.
We're often faced with an ultimatum--pay hefty fines to lug our favorite babies along, or risk a rental and a deep pit in your stomach when you realize it's not living up your lonesome board stuck at home.
While you're prepping for a halcyon trip in far-off wave-riddled paradise (El Salvador, maybe?), make sure you're not surprised at the gate with a sudden "we can't take that, it's too heavy," or "nope, that's longer than our height requirements," or the worst, "an extra board in your bag is an extra $200." It's happened to me, and I wouldn't wish it on the most loud-mouthed kooks in the water.
So to save you grief, review our updated 2018 surfboard airline price guide below, and review tips to make sure your trip through check-in is as seamless as could possibly be (with the biggest, heaviest, and most annoying form of baggage known to man.)
Top Surf Travel Bags For Airline Travel
A quality surfboard bag is the most important factor in keeping your surfboard protected from savage airline handlers. A drop or small spill with the right board bag can determine the difference of a hole in your surfboard and scratch-free travel.
Check to make sure that your bag is equipped with fasteners and extra-thick padding. The thicker your bag, the harder it will be for spills to affect your goods. A surfboard bag with rollers will additionally make navigating check-in a bit easier, and make sure to chose bags that have dividers already inside if you're taking multiple boards with you. Info on the best ones out there is right here.
How to Pack Your Surfboard For a Ding-Free Flight
You can never go too crazy with the surfboard packing process, and although surfboards themselves can seem sturdy, they're not built to withstand airport woes. To mitigate this, load up on the bubble wrap between boards and on the nose and tails, duct-taping a few layers around the most vulnerable areas, and use foam piping for the rails - this is your best bet for accident-free transit. Throw in shirts, towels, wetsuits, and whatever else you can to pad things up (just be careful to not go overweight.)
Remove your fins, stack your boards by rocker, and make sure your boards aren't flying around loosely - get them tight and cozy. The best step-by-step process we've found is from Trails - peep it to dive deeper into the packing process.
Airline Policies You Should Know Before Flying
Airlines are notorious for being strict with surfboards and those traveling with surfboard bags, so it's important to do your due diligence in researching each airline and what their policies are on traveling with surfboards.
Generally, most airlines have a set weight and surfboard length limit for all regular and oversized baggage, and if your board bag surfpasses (see what I did there) either of those, it will either be sent to your destination via the airline's cargo shipping (arriving at a later date), or it will not be able to go at all.
Airline Costs And Fees
Each airline will usually have flight charges associated with bringing along a surfboard (unless they're awesome like South African Airways) because most surfboards fall into the oversized baggage category.
Special sports equipment like surfboards are charged for flying in each direction, and it's important to note that some airlines will charge for each surfboard in your board bag. $150 per board can turn into $450 each way if you're bringing three with you, but $150 per bag means $150 there, $150 back, saving you $600 of travel fees and the amount of Prozac you'll need from making a thousand-dollar mistake. Remember, if the bag ends up being overweight, that could mean more $$$.
Flying with a longboard is another, more inconvenient type of beast. They're heavy, massive, hard to navigate around airports, and look like they're a packaged replacement wing for a jet.
You can bring longboards on a plane as long as they meets the height and weight requirements. However, if they're too long (which is the number one reason why airlines have to turn away longboards), you'll have to find another airline or opt for a beachside rental. I have, in fact, managed to schlep three longboards in a heavily-padded board bag with avianca airlines baggage standards, but you'll always have to check each height requirement by airline - which we did for you in our detailed infographic.
Read below for our comprehensive, updated 2018 airline travel guide for surfers, and find the best airline to bring your babies without forking over your firstborn.
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